In this biweekly series, racing analyst Keeler Johnson will share promising horses from his handicapping watch list, reviewing runners who have recently caught his eye and previewing horses scheduled to run back in the near future.
Off the Watch List
The Santa Anita Derby (G1) winner unfortunately exited his fourth-place finish in the 2020 Kentucky Derby with a tendon injury, prompting his retirement to stud.
We’ll never know for sure how brilliant Volatile could have been. The Alfred G. Vanderbilt (G1) winner has likewise been retired after suffering a hairline cannon bone fracture.
Trainer John Shirreffs continues to take a patient approach with the talented 3-year-old Express Train, who recently returned from an 11-month layoff to dominate a 6 1/2-furlong allowance sprint at Del Mar.
Despite facing older rivals over a distance surely shorter than his best, Express Train overcame a stumble at the start to rally powerfully and win by two lengths under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith.
Express Train will take his next step on the comeback trail in Saturday’s sixth race at Santa Anita, a one-mile allowance optional claiming race (post time 6 p.m. EDT). The distance should be perfect for this son of Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags, who broke his maiden by 14 1/4 lengths racing a mile at Del Mar last year. I’m expecting another impressive victory from Express Train this Saturday, with a jump into graded stakes company surely to follow.
Runner-up behind stablemate Princess Noor (see below) in her debut sprinting at Del Mar, Flash Magic should be tough to beat in Sunday’s second race at Santa Anita, a six-furlong maiden special weight (post time 4 p.m.).
A beautifully bred daughter of Pioneerof the Nile out of the Hard Spun mare Glinda the Good, Flash Magic is a half-sister to 2017 champion 2-year-old and 2018 Kentucky Derby runner-up Good Magic. Sprinting six furlongs is unlikely to be Flash Magic’s best game, but if she shows improved tactical speed while adding blinkers Sunday, she can graduate and take aim at graded stakes company in the near future.
Granted, Sunday’s third race at Remington Park, the six-furlong David M. Vance Stakes (post time 4:56 p.m.) is packed with stakes-winning sprinters. The competition runs deep, with two-time defending David M. Vance winner Welder looming as a logical contender to claim his third straight title.
But although his biggest wins have come running a mile or farther, don’t be surprised if Hunka Burning Love reaches the winner’s circle Sunday. The speedy son of Into Mischief has gone 6-for-7 overall (and 6-for-6 on dirt) since being claimed by trainer Karl Broberg during the spring. Most notably, Hunka Burning Love showed tenacity battling to victory over future Charles Town Classic (G2) winner Sleepy Eyes Todd in the Lone Star Mile.
Hunka Burning Love enters the David M. Vance off a 13 1/2-length allowance win running 1 mile and 70 yards at Remington just 16 days ago. The quick turnaround isn’t concerning (he won the Lone Star Mile off 18 days of rest), and while cutback in distance is a question mark, Hunka Burning Love did win an allowance race over this distance in June. It’s possible this improving 6-year-old is so hot he’ll prevail regardless of the circumstances.
Undefeated and unchallenged in two starts, Princess Noor demonstrated her abundant talent when cruising to a 6 1/2-length victory in the Del Mar Debutante (G1) three weeks ago. The daughter of Not This Time can cement her status as North America’s leading 2-year-old filly in Saturday’s third race at Santa Anita, the 1 1/16-mile Chandelier Stakes (G2, 4:30 p.m. ET).
A $1.35 million auction purchase trained by Bob Baffert, Princess Noor has yet to be asked for anything resembling her best run, so another resounding victory should be in the offing while facing just four rivals in the Chandelier. Her pedigree suggests the 1 1/16-mile distance won’t be an issue, so although her odds will be low, I’m looking forward to sitting back and watching a potential superstar filly in action.
With the retirement of Volatile, Saturday’s ninth race at Belmont Park, the six-furlong Vosburgh (G2, post time 5:14 p.m. ET) has come up lighter than expected. Just six horses have been entered, and the race doesn’t contain much early speed on paper.
This could give Share the Ride a chance to steal the show. The former claimer has shown improvement with frequent racing under the care of trainer Antonio Arriaga, running four times since Aug. 9. Share the Ride took a big step forward two weeks ago when switching to dirt and wiring the six-furlong Mr. Prospector Stakes at Monmouth Park, scoring by 3 3/4 lengths with strong speed figures of 104 (Beyer) and 105 (Brisnet).
A hot sprinter catching a small field without much speed? I don’t know about you, but I believe Share the Ride has a legitimate chance to upset the Vosburgh at a nice price.
Which horses do you have your eye this week?